Use Adobe Photoshop to create a duotone effect.

Whether it’s your favourite band’s avatar or your best friend’s new profile pic, the duotone effect is everywhere. Thankfully, it doesn’t take a full studio to create—all you need is your creativity. Learn how graphic artist Erica Larson uses Adobe Photoshop to add colour gradients to her images, creating a duotone look. 

Woman standing against a solid background with various yellow and orange tones blended across the composition

Take a peek at the Photoshop technique behind this duotone effect in our one-minute video; the steps are written out below. 

Before you start.

The duotone effect works best on high-contrast images. Use this sample image if you’d like or practice with your own.


Step 1: Prep your image

Larson started by adding a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer (different from a regular Gradient). This allows her to map colours onto the grayscale values, while preserving the original image.

Apply gradient map adjustment layer to model image in Adobe Photoshop

Step 2: Add a splash of colour

Click different Presets in the Properties panel to see how each one affects your image. Larson selected the Violet, Orange gradient as her starting point. 

Preview the effect of different gradient map presets

Step 3: Choose your shade

Click the gradient to open the Gradient Editor. This preset has two colour stops by default. Larson double-clicked each of the colour stops and then chose a new colour using the Colour Picker.

Double-click colour stops and use Colour Picker to set colours in gradient

Step 4: Enhance the spectrum

You can shift the colour stops and the Colour Midpoint (the centre diamond) to add a bit more range to your image’s colour spectrum. Larson went further, adding two more colour stops by simply clicking just below the gradient and again selecting from the Colour Picker.

Before and after: Adjust the colour midpoint for the gradient then add new colour stops
Before and after: Adjust the colour midpoint for the gradient then add new colour stops

Create your dynamic duotone.

See how this dramatic, colourful effect can give any high-contrast, black-and-white image a bold new look.

Image with duotone effect applied is displayed in a magazine placeholder image

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.

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